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Dream of providing all patients with same medical services in Vietnam

Dream of providing all patients with same medical services in Vietnam

Tuesday, April 05, 2022, 11:23 GMT+7
Dream of providing all patients with same medical services in Vietnam
Nguyen Minh Thao (L), Chief Operating Officer of Med247, and Truong Vu Tuan, Chief Executive Officer of Med247 in a provided photo.

Med247, a Vietnamese healthcare startup, has managed to raise US$4.5 million in a Series A round led by Altara Ventures, catching public attention since the company was only launched in March 2019.

Vietnam offers enormous potential and a challenging environment for digital healthcare these years.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, things have changed in this field as people have to go online for diagnoses or consultations for fear of contracting the virus.

But it is still impossible to move all medical processes on the Internet.

That is why Med247 is taking a hybrid approach to providing healthcare services online and offline (O2O) while leveraging its technology platform to offer patients high-quality medicals at a lower cost.

Empowering patients

Truong Vu Tuan and Nguyen Minh Thao, two co-founders of Med247, have been close friends since their school days in Hanoi two decades ago.

While Tuan trained as an information technology engineer, Thao has a degree in marketing.

They admitted that being 'outsiders' did not stop them from pursuing their dream of changing healthcare in Vietnam.

"I once worked as a software developer for a clinic in 2018, which gave me insights into healthcare in Vietnam," said Tuan, Med247 CEO.

"In fact, I found that many problems do not arise from technology, but from people and the process they utilize to address the problems.

"In short, technology is not a big problem."

One aspect where there is still much room for improvement, in Tuan's view, is patient engagement.

When patients have full trust in doctors, their treatment is already 50 percent successful, he explained.

If a platform is to make this happen, it should provide patients with a private, trustworthy, and convenient channel through which they can contact their own doctors.

After discussions with Thao, the two designed the Med247 model, a hybrid that combines online and offline healthcare services.

They work with multiple clinics and doctors in various cities to provide healthcare services, with a focus on preventive medicine.

"We have no intention of replacing the role of doctors and medical staff with what Med247 does," Thao, 37-year-old COO, underlined.

"What we really want is for patients to have equal access to all healthcare, regardless of their social status or financial circumstances.

"They have access to the services they need without having to have any privileges, as is common in our society."

For Thao, caring for a patient means not only treating their illness but also taking care of their mental health.

"When it comes to treating a patient, I believe they need to be treated physically and mentally at the same time," she said.

Thao has long wondered why Vietnamese patients still seek treatment abroad, despite having so many excellent domestic doctors.

"One important reason is the way a doctor asks or advises a patient," she noted.

With the launch of Med247, Tuan and Thao hope to bring more convenience to both patients and doctors.

While doctors can focus more on treating patients with the support from the platform, the sick will feel that their medical problems are addressed carefully and treated properly.

Becoming the friend of families

The two Med247 co-founders want to explore the potential of their niche market: family health care.

In the long term, they want to make their app the 'family doctor' in every Vietnamese family.

When it comes to treating a patient, knowing their medical information is extremely important.

So if Med247 follows its patients long enough, it could become a reliable source of health information for both patients and doctors.

"If there is a real relationship of trust between doctors and patients, an online consultation will be as effective as an in-person check-up, sometimes even better," Tuan said, referring to time savings, cost, and convenience of time and place.

Like Tuan, Thao said it would be more convenient and comfortable for patients to contact a trusted doctor at any time.

(from left) Thao Nguyen - Chief Operation Officer of Med247, Dr. Trung Nguyen - Chief Medical Officer, also Deputy Country Director - Harvard Medical Office in Vietnam (HAIVN), and Tuan Truong - Chief Executive Officer of Med247 in a provided photo

From left: Nguyen Minh Thao, Chief Operating Officer of Med247, Dr. Trung Nguyen, Director of Health Advancement in Vietnam, a collaboration with Havard Medical School, and Truong Vu Tuan, Chief Executive Officer of Med247 in a provided photo

"In some of the countries I know, the family doctor plays a particularly significant role in taking care of the health of family members," explained Thao.

"For example, if someone has a problem and turns to the family doctor, who knows the family and its peculiarities so well, the doctor can help them know what to do or where to send the patient to get the right treatment.

"We want our platform to be able to play this role of coordination at its best."

She expects Med247 to become a virtual primary care physician app that helps patients control their medical records, connect with doctors when they need them, and make online appointments to save time.

How will the $4.5 million funding be spent?

As a three-year-old startup, Med247 has much to do before realizing their dream of gaining a foothold in the healthcare industry.

Thao, who is in charge of Med247's growth and operations, cites three main areas the startup will invest in with the new funding.

First, the company will use 15-20 percent of the funding to build the Med247 Academy, a training center for doctors and nurses that will primarily develop soft skills.

It has already implemented some projects in this area.

Thao believes that it is the academy that differentiates Med247 from other competitors in the same market.

Second, the company will allocate about 30 percent of its research and development funds to develop tools for handling big data in healthcare using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning.

"We believe that reliable data is as valuable as gold," added Tuan, who has 12 years of experience in software system development.

"That is why we do not pay much attention to the benefit at the initial stage of the business but want to build a high-quality system for data processing."

Third, they will use the last part of the funding to expand Med247's network of family clinics in Vietnam.

"We are not only working with clinics in cities but also in remote and rural areas to turn Med247 into a nationwide chain of family clinics," Thao said.

While many startups see the COVID-19 pandemic as an obstacle, Thao believes it has given Med247 certain advantages.

"We established our company in March 2019, almost a year before the pandemic broke out in Vietnam," she said.

"Such coronavirus restrictions as social distancing and travel curbs have led to more patients finding help on our platform and many doctors also changing their minds about online health services."

The Med247 team is working with MiRXES, a Singapore-based biotechnology company, to bring its microRNA detection technology to the Vietnamese healthcare market.

This technology helps to perform early cancer detection tests.

In the last 18 months, Med247 has served about 50,000 customers, and the average repeat rate for its ecosystem of services in three months is 2.47.

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Kim Thoa / Tuoi Tre News

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